Carolyn and Brian Jobe are the power couple behind locatearts.org
, a website dedicated to fostering a unified statewide art scene in Tennessee. Today at noon, they will be presenting on the state of art communities across Tennessee as part of the Dixon’s Munch and Learn Series. They each took some time out of their busy schedule to answer some questions from me via email. This is part of that exchange.
Dwayne Butcher: How long have you been the proprietors of Locate Arts and how did the idea come about?
When Brian and I lived in Texas, we were inspired by how the whole state was considered a strong contemporary art force, and by the role glasstire.com
plays in connecting the cities’ scenes. One of our favorite things to do was check Glasstire’s exhibition listings and take a day trip to a neighboring city with a game plan of what to see. We got to know the art scenes and cities and it felt nourishing to our art practices and personal lives. We grew up in Tennessee and, between the two of us, have lived in all four major cities, so we always knew that Tennessee’s contemporary art scenes had a similar kind of potential to make a big impact. The cities just need to be in the practice of talking to each other.
Locate Arts was officially started in January 2015, but we got the ball rolling after conversing with Lain York of Zeitgeist Gallery around Thanksgiving in 2014. Brian and I had talked for years about a website that would connect all of Tennessee’s contemporary art scenes. Lain, who is a wise advisor, encouraged the website idea and mentioned that Sam Yates at UT Knoxville had been talking about how there ought to be a Tennessee Biennial. We thought about pairing the website and the biennial, which would expose Tennessee’s contemporary art scene locally, and promoting it nationally and internationally. So we talked to Sam and he was supportive. Then we talked to groups of people in each of the major cities to gauge interest and started planning initiatives.
Locate Arts has always felt like an extension of our lives. We love connecting people and uncovering things that may be overlooked. The web resource at locatearts.org has been a deeply gratifying project to launch and we hear frequently from artists and others that it’s become indispensable to them. Secondly, we are close to announcing details on the upcoming statewide biennial exhibition, slated for Summer 2018.
Has it been a challenge to work across the entire state, keeping up with current trends, openings, and artists? It seems like a daunting task.
It’s a challenge, but it also feels second nature to us and has been so exciting to be a part of. We learn more every month about artists (those we know and those we are introduced to) and venues and that information allows us to connect people to other artists and opportunities with increasing facility. Moreover, it allows us to see the unique strengths and tendencies of each city and region.
Have you felt that the individual cities have been hesitant to work together to unify the statewide art scene? Or have they welcomed the dialogue?
It seems less like hesitation than a lack of intentionality. It’s definitely more instinctive to be plugged in to the place you live and work to make that place thrive. What we observed by living in places like Texas is that interconnectedness through dialogue and shared opportunities can forge the feeling of a larger state scene. This “strength in numbers” approach drives our desire to link up all conversations within Tennessee’s art communities and present a state scene to the nation and beyond. We generally get the sense that each city is curious about what’s happening in the rest of the state, but we feel like the web resource gives legs to that interest and can provide concrete ways to start conversations.
We think that even if the cities themselves have a friendly rivalry, the contemporary art communities are more than willing to rise above. It feels like we all share a common bond of creating something that is pushing against the norm and trying to be innovative.
Locate Arts: Each city has its own unique strengths. Here’s a little of what we’ve observed:
Memphis has such a rich history of being an established art center with the scope of its collector base and commercial galleries, 100-year-old collecting museum (the Brooks), multiple MFA programs, and energy behind newer initiatives like Crosstown Arts.
Nashville has maintained a long running art scene, but is currently experiencing a significant volume of growth (both the influx of artists to the city as well as an expanding quantity of venues). The overall population growth of Nashville is certainly responsible in part, but the current groundswell of energy in unmistakable.
Chattanooga is a scene defined by the strength of their studio community, with its warmth and openness. Chattanoogans have also exhibited a willingness to travel frequently in engage with the scenes in Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta.
Knoxville is anchored by the UT School of Art and the scope of that program, with exceptional educators, visiting professionals, and students. Knoxville has long felt like a great place to make and exhibit experimental work and this feeling is sustained by the quorum of alternative spaces along the N. Central corridor just north of downtown (i.e. Fluorescent Gallery, Striped Light, and The Central Collective).
One of the most important aspects of your site is the artist registry. It has been a vital resource for me returning to Memphis after over three years of being away, as it allows me to see what has been going on with artists and see what is happening across the state. Can you talk a little bit about the artist registry and the selection process of getting a profile listed on the site?
We’re so glad to hear that the artist registry has benefitted you! We hear similar things from so many artists who had no idea they had so many peers in the state.
It’s something we’re told quite often and supports our idea that contextualizing the talent across the state is vital for Tennesseans and visitors. Anyone is welcome to apply to the registry and we have a web form on the site for applications. Those applications are reviewed quarterly by our Registry Advisory Committee, a group made up from among our Official Advisors from across the state (and does not include us). We feel good about the selection process being in the hands of a talented panel which allows us to focus on the direction and administration of Locate Arts without being cast in the role of curators.
What is the best way to get an event listed on your site? Are there any particular requirements for the show?
Locate Arts: It’s very simple to submit exhibition information through that web form on the site and we love being able to promote the full scope of contemporary art currently on view. The exhibit should be contemporary in nature (or if the work is from the 20th century, should pertain to the present), should ideally be submitted in advance of the opening, and may even be submitted far in advance if the details are already known. We would list an artist studio as an exhibition venue and are concerned primarily about the work itself. We do not list artist opportunities, calls, or the like so that we can have the site function with clearly articulated roles.
Locate Arts is presenting at the Dixon as part of their Munch and Learn series, Wednesday, March 8th 12-1pm. Are you going to be talking about anything in particular?
We anticipate some in attendance who are unfamiliar with our work, so we’ll begin with an introduction. We’ll discuss the website and the range of its functionality. We’ll talk about the state and the unique qualities of each city/ region pertaining to contemporary visual art. And, we’ll give updates on the upcoming statewide biennial exhibition, and other recent big announcements/ changes.
We’ll also be talking about the role contemporary art plays and why it should be valued as a resource. It’s great to see the Dixon programming compelling contemporary art shows.
What are some of the highlights that are happening in each of these communities?
Locate Arts: There are so many crazy and exciting exhibitions in each city, we couldn’t even begin to name them. But you can always check our “Top Pick” on each city’s exhibition page to see w
hat we think you shouldn’t miss.
What are some of the challenges these communities have to deal with when trying to create and maintain a thriving visual arts community?
Locate Arts: The art communities in Tennessee can continue to expand for a host of reasons, but when artists as well as arts institutions look to communicate and collaborate with scenes around them in addition to nurturing their own growth, something really, really good will come of that.
Who are some of the must-see artists that are currently working across the state?
Locate Arts: There are so many it’s hard to know where to start, so we’ll just limit it to one person per city.
Memphis: Lester Merriweather
Nashville: Karen Seapker
Chattanooga: Sarah P. Smith
Knoxville: Jered Sprecher
Memphis: Coriana Close
Nashville: Alicia Henry
Chattanooga: Jessica Wohl
Knoxville: Rubens Ghenov
You are both artists, how has it been to maintain a studio practice while working on Locate Arts?
I feel like I’m living through a time where I get to listen to so many artists speak about their work (and all at a moment where the world of geo-politics is upside down) that I just want to listen and process. I’m still making work, but feel certain that the way I want to engage the public through sculpture and installation is in flux.
I take the long view with my practice. I will always paint, because it is a language that I can’t stop exploring. Things are slower right now, but I know I’ll have more time at another stage in life. When I do get to the studio, I am very thankful for the time. Recently, I’ve had studio visits with David Wolff from Knoxville and Douglas Degges and Sarah P. Smith from Chattanooga. Getting input from these thoughtful artists encourages me to continue the work.